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tv   Maria Hinojosa One-on- One  PBS  December 23, 2012 8:30am-9:00am PST

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>> hinojosa: in 2003, latinos surpassed african americans as the largest minority in this country. as demographics continue to shift, the relationship between these two groups continues to change. me see conflict, others see opportunity. what does the future hold for these two communities? a conversation with leading cultural thinkers ilan stavans and henry louis gates, jr. i'm maria hinojosa, this is one on one. professor henry louis gates from harvard, professor ilan stavans from amherst, welcome to our program. it's so great to have you here. >> it's a pleasure. >> thank you, maria. >> hinojosa: so you know, when we talk about african american and latino relations, people are
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living it on a day to day basis, but both of you kind of approach this from your academic perspectives in terms of literature. so professor gates-- we'll just call you skip... >> mm-hmm. >> hinojosa: ...why look at this current important relationship through the prism of literature? >> well, i've added to the norton anthology of african american literature along with ten of my colleagues... >> hinojosa: this big book-- big, heavy book, yes. >> ( laughing ) it's the big bible. this... the mother ship of black literature. in order to enshrine african american literature in the academy. look, if you are from the whitest place in say, idaho and there are no black people around and you can't get black books in the bookstore, if you can get one anthology, there's no excuse not to teach african american literature. so you buy one book, you get a whole semester course. and i wanted to do this, as i'm sure ilan did, to make it possible for people to teach and
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to study african american literature and latino literature. and there's some overlap between african american and latino. >> hinojosa: and so is it the same thing for you, ilan? the sense that you just wanted anyone-- any part of the country or the world-- to be able to say,i want to understand latino literature, therefore i have the anthology?" >> well, i wanted, first and foremost, to say, "we have arrived," and the norton anthology is a cultural moment. it's a statement: "we have made it; we have been both participants and witnesses of dramatic american history and we have something to show and we can put it all together for everybody to see-- both latinos and non-latinos." and the fact that norton invests in a project like this and puts it, as skip says, in the high scols and coegesis crucial, but it is crucial also to go beyond that realm and say, "look, american literature is far more than hemmingway and mark twain." american literature is made of a number of different chambers, a
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number of different paths, and we can approach it from different perspectives. literature in the end is a mirror of how society has been seeing itself across time, and when you enter skip's anthology or when you enter the latino anthology, you're able to navigate through time and see the complexity of... of many moments that are coming together. >> hinojosa: all right, so let's start with... because there's a lot of history here and we want to cover a lot of things, but so what... what is an important moment in time for the both of you that where latino and african american literature kind of intersect? and before we get to the present, so an important moment in history? >> well, i can think of two: 1885 up to the turn of the century, many cuban intellectuals such as josé martí, the father of the revolution and the great... the bronze titan, antonio maceo, the leading general of the cuban revolution. the biggest statue in cuba today is not to fidel or to ché, it's
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to maceo-- black man. they met in new york, 1885. they had a spanish language newspaper, they interacted with black intellectuals such as the great arthur schaumburg-- and we all know about the schaumburg library, the new york... the harlem branch of the new york public library. arthur schaumburg was puerto rican, fluent in spanish, wrote about cuba, wrote about the war of independence, wrote about the terrible massacre of black men in 1912 in cuba when they tried to form a black political party. he wrote about it for w.e.b. dubois. the other period, of course, would be the harlem renaissance. >> hinojosa: mm-hmm. >> the harlem renaissance, which was a time of... well, it's the... historian david levering lewis puts it, "it was civil rights through art." black people had the idea-- which was a not very efficacious idea, but they had an idea-- that they could change the image of the race vis-à-vis white people who doubted our ancestor's intellectual integrity and intellectual capacities by creating great
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literature and art. so there was this big revolution of writing and it was called the harlem renaissance, but it led to renaissances throughout the caribbean and even in africa. you know, the négritude movement, which was started by a martinican, aimé césaire, and léopold senghor, who went on to become the first president of senegal, they were students at the sorbonne. they heard about the harlem renaissance and they created the négritude movement starting in 1934. and langstonughe probably the most googled and sited poet in the american cannon, translated works of these black american writers into spanish and french... >> hinojosa: that's so beautiful. >> ...because he was trilingual. so that there's been this interaction. it's sort... i presume... you're mexican, i know, of mexican descent, and i presume you were raised roman catholic. >> hinojosa: mm-hmm. >> well, the church, the roman catholic church, for the first
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millennium and a half after the death of christ, was like a club fointeectuals. i don't mean it in a facetious way. all of the intellectuals who were priests that related to the church, they all read latin, no matter if they were from what is now italy or germany or england or france. whereas the common people didn't know anything about each other, the intellectual class did. that's the same analogy for artists in the diaspora. >> hinojosa: so do you agree, ilan, that these... or what would be the points of intersection historically? >> i would say first and foremost that the latinos are not a racial minority. weave been a minority group, and so african american literature is part of latino literature, because there is a portion, a substantial portion, of latinos that are black, and they have been producing literature from the very beginning of... in the history of this country. >> hinojosa: so you guys overlap? >> absolutely. there are texts that go back and forth, and if not directly the texts, there are all sorts of influences and relationships
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that are crucial. there... you can't see one group without understanding the other, and increasingly, as this country becomes more multifaceted, the relationship between these two groups is essential. and i think it's really a key factor in the success or the fail of the country. but i would add one more point that is, i think, equally important, and that is the civil rights era. latinos learned to be active by admiring their black brothers, and they also took paths that were different, that were relating them to emiliano zapata, to pancho villa, to figures in latin america. the civil rights period, unfortunately... unfortunately in this country, is still taught in black and white. >> mm-hmm. >> we need to go beyond. we need to see it in black and white and technicolor. césar chávez, regas de harina, major figures that are as important as the reverend martin luther king, malcolm x. we hope-- i think skip will agree with me-- that an effort like this opens people's minds
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to see the subtleties of history. not... not history as we have been taught, but history in a way that we can understand from... from within, from behind. >> but many-- i say this unfortunately-- many latinos who would be defined as black in this country don't, in their country, define themselves as black. they would say, "no, i'm mexican," or "no, i'm dominican," or "no, i'm cuban." there's sometimes the blackness of a person in a latino culture... >> hinojosa: sometimes? >> it's a very important point... >> hinojosa: i would say it's oftentimes it's a very important point. >> because we in latin america... >> no, no, yeah, that they deny it. >> hinojosa: that there... that there's a denial of the complexity. >> there's a denial of it, yeah; oh, my god. >> hinojosa: there's a lot of denial. >> we don't talk about race the way... in latin america the way we talk about race in the united states. >> no. >> andheres a... an implicit and deeply rooted racism in our society.. >> anti-black racism.
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>> absolutely. >> there were 12.5 million africans... >> hinojosa: this is an amazing statistic that even that you know it, but i want people to listen, so say it again. >> between 1502 and 1867, 12.5 million africans were shipped to the new world. and of that 12.5, 15% died in the middle passage, okay? so that means 11.2 about get off the boats in the new world. and of that 11.2, only 450,000 came to the united states inhe entire history of the slave trade. 100,000 more black africans went to your mexico than came to our united states. but when i say that even to scholars, they go, "oh, surely that can't be right." >> hinojosa: "that can't be true." >> but they're all intermarried, and they can early in the trade, they all intermarried for various historical reasons, and now mexicans have an expression, "you have a black grandma in the closet." you had four children and one of them has what my mother would
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say,a little touch of the tar brush in the kitchen." ( laughing ) >> there's something in the anthology that i think both of you will... will enjoy or appreciate... >> you mean my anthology or your anthology? >> in my anthology. >> oh, oh, oh, i see. ( laughing ) it's a little shorter than mine. >> hinojosa: in this one! ( laughing ) >> in... there's one... there's one moment in which fray bartolomé de las casas, the most important activist within the catholic church at the time of the colonial period, who is meditating publically-- he's really the first public intellectual of the hispanic world on this side of the atlantic... >> that's true. >> ...he is meditating on what to do with the suffering of the indians, and he says, "the spaniards have been abusing them; it is time to stop." and he writes a letter to the monarchs in spain saying, "let's stop this..." >> "...and bring in those africans." >> exactly. "let's bring the africans; they can do it. the indians have to be released." very important. >> "the africans suffer... they suffer better and they are less human than the native..." and that's la casas, who was a
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priest! >> true. >> hinojosa: right. why... you know, i think... and i... and that's why i appreciate so much the work that you're doing and the fact that both of you and many of us in our america are trying to talk about these issues, because... >> listen, this pairing... this pairing represents cross-ethnic cooperation. ilan and i have been friends for a long time. he watches what i do, i watch what he does, and look, the reason that i got the idea to do the norton anthology of african american literature is that they published the norton anthology of women's literature. so i was watching the feminists, think, "well, if they can do it, we can do it." then ilan saw that... >> they did exactly the same. >> yes. >> 10, 12, 13 years ago... >>m-hmm. >> ...skip did, and i thought, "it is time for latinos to do it." he was a role model, he was a mentor, and i said, "this is a moment that some... in which i have to assume my own responsibility and do something that skip has already done. >> which is why you've got to give me a royalty. ( laughing ) >> hinojosa: right now, in this moment, though, when the reality
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is that our demographics have changed so much, you know, we have to name it, right? we have to be able to say, "i may look like this, but i have african roots," righ that's why... >> is that why you wear the cowry shell? >> hinojosa: this is why i wear the cowry shells, because when i realized that i was not only a product of, you know, south side chicago, but then when i looked at my family and i was like, ( speaking in spanish ). "oh, my god, he's black!" and ( speaking in spanish ). "my aunt, also." and it was... the importance, and i guess i want you to both talk about this, is how important is it for us to speak, to own-- i mean, you've done a lot of this genealogical wor- but to own our past, our racial past and our common african and latino ancestry? >> i'll tell you why it's particularly important for latinos.
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because almost every latino... multiracial latino society in the caribbean and in south america had an official policy of whitening-- brazil did, mexico did, cuba did-- and whitening was the subsidized immigration of europeans into the caribbean or latin american countries to brighten the color of the country. south america, latin america, has been in denial about its black roots. it's been in denial about that 11.2 million figure to the point where these countries would allocate millions of dollars to pay europeans to come move to mexico, move to brazil, move to cuba, move to dominican republic, move to wherever, intermarry, and lighten the country. they were trying to change the ratio of blacko whe, and hope, through miscegenation, that they would lighten the country. and they even had theories
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about... in brazil, through gilberto freyre, was called "racial democracy," but in mexico, 1925, josé vasconcelos wrote a book called the cosmic race. >> hinojosa: that's right. >> and he said, "we are all the races," but he devalued the black element. he wanted the black element to disappear in a mestizanal kind of fantasy land. >> vasconcelos is in 1925, in his famous essay mestizaje, suggests that these other races e just a stepping stone for the stizo race to come and take over. the mestizos, in his view, are the ones that are going to bring together the... the differences of races and supersede them and are going to lead us to the future. but i... >> hinojosa: to a cosmic race. >> to a cosmic time... >> a new atlantis, and he even used the expression "new atlantis." but the problem with his theory, just as the problem with... >> oh, there are many problems with that theory. >> well, there is, but just as with... this one aspect is common with gilberto freyre, who wrote the masters and the slaves, 1933 in brazil and then the cubanidad, ortiz in cuba,
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1940, was that they wanted the black elements to disappear. >> hinojosa: which is interesting, because i don't... i mean, i studied a lot of this, but i don't remember that kind of being so present, that they wanted those black elements to disappear. but let me bring it back... >> you need to be in my class. >> hinojosa: okay, let me... let me just go take your class. >> that's right. >> hinojosa: speaking of classes, there is certainly much more acknowledgement of latino, latin american studies, of african, african american studies across our colleges and universities, and there is also a tremendous amount of growing resistance to that. so while you can have these two amazing anthologies, the fact is is that, well, how do both of you see what's happening right now in terms of the resistance to the fact that you now will have probably, you know, more african americans and latinos in this country soon than white folks? >> let me... let me... let me try to answer that, but i want to go back to something that
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skip said. i agree with him; it is time for us latinos to think race in a serious, conscious, and responsible fashion. it will take a long time. it is not something that will be done immediately. latin america has 400 million people. it is a very complex reality, very different from the united states. that's not latinos. latinos are here in the united states in this melting pot or in this mosaic. we will not become fully american until we realize our background, until we talk about those things. but talking is just the beginning, maria. i want to also say that-- and i wa to vite skip-- there has be some change betwn the two communities. there are tensions. we might be painting it in a rosy fashion, but you know, latinos in 2003 became the largest minority. latinos are a sum of minorities. you know, mexican americans, cubans, dominicans, puerto ricans. are we a minority? are we mini-minorities together,
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dumped into one for political reasons, for ratings on television, and do we relate to one another? within puerto ricans, within mexicans, there are tensions that have to do with class, that have to do with race, that have to do with language, with all... all these elements. and then there's the relationship between latinos and the black community, the african american community, and there... there's envy, there's resistance, there are discrepancies. there has to be a more concerted effort that could start in the media, but i believe that no book is going to do anything until we change the drop out rates, particularly among latinos. >> hinojosa: well, that's why, you know... >> the number of kids that are graduating from elementary school is abysmal. >> but it's the same for black people. >> it is. >> and illiteracy rates-- functional literacy. hinojosa:nd we have our first african american president... >> right, and the unemployment rate hasn't changed one percent. >> hinojosa: and the poverty rate and the unemployment rate and an unresolved immigration issue and you know, so i was
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getting at the fact that there's... there's a backlash. >> mm-hmm, not only from the right. >> hinojosa: on multiple places. >> but there's also... >> hinojosa: not only from the right. you know that in staten island, there have been a rash... in new york, there was a rash of hate crimes primarily perpetrated against "mexicans" or those who "look" mexican primarily by african americans. >> well, but then there's that lunatic immigration law in arizona. so it's manifesting... this hatred of the other, this xenophobia-- which is what xenophobia is, is fear of the other; fear of the darkness of the other, the darkness of strangeness, as it were-- is manifesting itself in many ways. it's not just the stereotypical white racist against people of color, but even within hispanic ethnic groups, or... >> oh, sure. >> ...as some people say, latino ethnic groups, when are the black people black? i interviewed people from this new blk in latinmerica seriesn pbs, and... all over latin america, but in dominican
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republic i saw a man who was darker than i, and i said... he said, "i see myself as an afro-descended person; i'm a black man." i said, "well, when did you learn this?" because so many people in the dominican republic told me they weren't black. and i'd say, "who's black?" they'd go, "the haitians, but nobody here," no matter how black they were. so i said, "well, when did you learn you were black?" he said, "oh, that's easy, when i was in new york." ( laughing ) "when i went to new york, all the white people told me i was black." >> hinojosa: well, so how do we... how do we... we're trying. i mean, we're doing this show, we've got you here. what needs to happen? how do we... how do we engage in this conversation? i mean, i try to make it happen with everyone that i meet. >> i think in... let's remember that the history of this country is always the history of going from one end to another; from extremes, like a pendulum, in both parties-- in issues that have to do with opening the borders or closing the borders. so we are going through a period that has to be seen in context. there have been others that have been similar. we have been also through better
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moments. i am not ssure, maria, tha this moment is against a color as it is against class, and particularly, against foreignness, aliens, people that come from somewhere else. i think this is a particularly anti-immigrant moment more than it is anti-mexican, although i would be the first to say that mexicans are demonized in this country in a way that african americans were maybe 200 years ago and 100 years ago. >> hinojosa: and so in a way, you'd like to have leaders saying, "what's happening here is wrong, it's racial profiling..." >> and to len fr the... to learn the lessons, absoluty. >> i think it's very important. >> but latinos have no leaders. we are failing miserably. we have no leadership-- you guys do. >> hinojosa: so i want to get back, and we've just got a couple of minutes left, about... >> no, extend to an hour. bump one of your other programs. >> hinojosa: but how do we... you know, what is it? is there a... you know, should the president say, "we are going to have a national forum. we're going to put this out there; we're going to talk about
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it..." >> i don't believe in change coming from above. i believe in change coming from within, from below, from inside. i believe in dialogue that is not made through a commission like clinton had to explore race. i mean, we could have all those commissions, and the commissions are going to produce a document and pass it around and we, the intellectuals, are going to say, "yes," or "no," applaud it or condemn it, and then that's it. there has... the change has to be in the classroom in the elementary schools, in the middle schools. i think the classroom is a laboratory of... of conflict, of clashes. if we don't use the classroom to debate courageously ideas-- ideas we might not like-- nothing will happen outside. >> my colleagues and i, through dubois and harvard are working on a curriculum to revolutionize how we teach science and history to brown and black kids, because what we want to do is to show latino americans and african americans how hybrid we are, how
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black we all are-- all from africa, right? i mean, it's 11.2, so if i did your dna, i am convinced that you would have an astonishing amount of african ancestry because you're of mexican descent and native american. >> hinojosa: probably some jewish too. >> yeah, probably some jewish too. >> hinojosa: sephardic jews. >> but when i did... and there are distinctive hapa groups for jewish people, because they inter... intermarried because they were closed communities for protection. but when i did eva longoria in my last pbs series face of america, she was 37% native american, 60% european, and three percent black. >> but you're inspiring other people, and that's what i was talking about. my own wife, watching your shows, now has been through google, through all sorts of explorations, finding out where her own immigrant groups had been about. >> that moves me so much. >> and that is what... what... the impact that can happen. >> but i want, in ou curriculum, every child in harlem... >> hinojosa: gets to do that. >> ...we'll do their family tree and we'll test their dna.
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and while we wait for the results, we'll teach them how dna works; how this ancestor tracing works. >> you democratize it. >> and we'll walk down the hall and we'll teach them the history of the slave trade, how black the new world is, how old slavery is, and we'll teach them about my colleagues john thornton and linda heywood at bu have theorized that there were 50 ethnic groups that were commonly called tribes that dominated the slave trade. so all of us are descended from one of these 50 tribes, more or less, in the new world who have african descent. so when the results come in, then the student will do a powerpoint about their ethnic heritage and their hybrid ethnic heritage, because remember-- 35% of all black men descend from a white man. 35% of all black men in the united states descend from a white man who impregnated a black female during slavery. that's one in three! if we went to the boston celtics tomorrow night and i did the dna of every black person, no matter how black they look on
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that court, one in three have a white male ancestor. >> hinojosa: so you're basically saying we need to get to a point where we see ourselves in each other without fear... >> but... and without obsession here. >> hinojosa: and without obsession. >> right. >> hinojosa: so finally, we could talk a lot about you know, you're doing very specific projects. ilan, something specific that we can leave the audience with of what they can do on a daily sis to encourage this dialogue, this... this seeing themselves in each other between african americans and latinos. >> open a poem, read it out loud to yourself, to your family, to your kids, that is not from your own background and see how you see... how you hear the echoes of something that will relate to you. i think that literature is not about reading about oneself, but it's about reading about others and how others are really about oneself. >> hinojosa: and skip? >> well, literature makes us all
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time travelers. you can enter any consousns, any period, any historical epic and be the other, and i think if we rewarded our teachers in elementary school and junior high school, literature could implicitly have this political end that you affect. my one word advice to building harmony? vote. vote. register and vote. and longer-- a few more words? stay in school. master literacy, because so many of our people are either don't graduate from high school, and even if they graduate from high school, they could never read, they could never read with sufficient comprehension anything in those books, because they're functionally illiterate. >> hinojosa: so keep hope alive, stay in school, there's going to be a lot of challenges, read a poem-- i love that; i'm going to go and do that today with my two kids who are dominican mexicans... >> oh, my god. >> ...from harlem so we can all do it. professor ilan stavans,
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professor skip gates, it's been great to have you. i guess we'll have to have you back for the other half-hour. >> ( laughing ) okay, muchos gracias. >> wonderful. >> hinojosa: thank you so much. continue the conversation at wgbh.org/oneonone.
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